Quiet fire season in Summit County so far no predictor of future risk, expert says
On Thursday, Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer was cautiously optimistic about the fire situation around the county, saying things have been pretty quiet after a wet spring.
He had his eye on a storm system moving through, though, and noted the probability of lightning and that the storm didn’t have much moisture coming with it.
Turns out, he was right to be worried, as a lightning strike touched off a wildfire about 5 miles northeast of Coalville, near the Interstate 80/Interstate 84 interchange.
As of Friday morning, the fire had burned about 80 acres, Summit County spokesperson Krachel Murdock said, and was at 0%containment.
By midday Friday, about 60 firefighters from agencies around the area were on scene to help, in addition to a helicopter crew that was dumping water on the fire.
Murdock said she was told by Boyer that things were going well on Friday morning. The helicopter could grab up to 250 gallons from the nearby Echo Reservoir, and two hand crews of 20 firefighters apiece were attacking the blaze from the ground.
Overnight rains helped dampen the flames, but as the day heated up or the wind shifted, there was a danger the fire could spread.
Crews from the Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands, the Unified Fire District out of Salt Lake City, the North Summit Fire District and the Summit County public works department were on hand.
In general, though, Boyer said the fire season has been relatively quiet.
“Usually by now, we’re at about 50-60 fires, now we’re about 40 in the county,” Boyer said Thursday afternoon. “Usually by now we’ve had a few that have gone 100 acres or close to it, and as of right now there hasn’t been anything at all in the county or in the forest that’s gone over 20.”
A few hours later, though, the first large fire had hit eastern Summit County.
Murdock said no homes or structures were threatened.
Boyer hoped one factor in the relatively small number of fires is that people were taking more care with fire safety measures after a particularly bad season last year. He advised people going target shooting to bring a fire extinguisher with them — at least a 5- or 10-pound model — and to make sure their campfires are completely extinguished.
A fire isn’t out until it’s cool to the touch, Boyer explained. The way to do it is to pour water over the embers, stir the mix around and test for heat with the back of a hand when it appears safe to do so. One should keep adding water and stirring until the area can be safely touched. Boyer said it shouldn’t take more than 15 or so minutes.
And Boyer noted just because the area has been lucky so far, there’s no proof the luck will hold.
“The biggest thing is just to be really cautious,” he said. “It’s been really dry, it’s been warm. With winds projected through the weekend, fires will travel quickly, so just keep them small and make sure they’re completely out before folks leave.”
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